Under the guise of maximizing sleep for business class passengers, United Airlines is cutting back service in its Polaris Business Class product.
In a memo to flight attendants, United outlines changes to United Polaris coming on May 01, 2018.
The rationale: increase sleep.
One area customers have been passionate about is the importance of sleep on their journey. To put this feedback into action and provide a better all-around experience, we are modifying the United Polaris service flow to allow for more efficiency and longer periods of uninterrupted rest for our customers.
To put this feedback into action, effective May 1, we will continue to provide a competitive premium product with high quality food and wine offerings with a more streamlined service.
The secondary basis: customers can eat in Polaris lounges.
Customers have positively received our United Polaris lounge, and this year we are opening more United Polaris lounges beginning this summer in San Francisco, Houston and New York/Newark and in the fall, Los Angeles. As we continue to add more lounges, we want to take into account the feedback that customers have given us — they’ve emphasized their desire to rest and relax during their journey, especially onboard.
Small problem: Chicago O’Hare remains the only airport with a United Polaris Lounge. Hopefully that will change later this year, but is hardly a fair reason to cutback on meal service out of other stations.
Consequently, the following changes will be unrolled:
Pre-Departure Beverages: Pre-Poured
A choice of drink will no longer be proactively offered. Instead, United will offer “pre-poured sparkling wine, orange juice and water offered from a silver tray, with other beverages available upon request.”
Elimination of Special Three-Tiered Bloody Mary and “Wine Flight” Carts
Three-tiered carts will be reduced, with beverage service provided by “standard” drink carts. “This more efficient service flow will provide our customers with more time to relax and sleep allowing you to focus on caring for our customers.” United will add “cart covers” (like American and Delta have) to make the drink carts look more presentable.
No More Display of Mid-Flight Snacks
Mid-flight snacks will no longer be laid out in the galley or on galley carts. Instead, hang tags on water bottles will advise passengers of snack offerings.
Hang tags advising the customers that mid-flight snacks are available will be added to the individual bottle waters distributed after the main meal service. Hot snack items, when available, will also be delivered upon request.
No More Pre-Departure Chocolate
Chocolate will instead be placed on pre-arrival meal service tray.
No More Soup in First Class
One of the last distinguishing features of the first class soft product, soup, will be eliminated. The salad and appetizer will be served by tray. First class itself will be phased out later this year.
Removing Linen from Pre-Arrival Service
Linens will still be offered on the trays.
Double Whammy to FAs?
The cutbacks are bad enough, but United is also suggesting to FAs that their may have to work harder…
Focus on Express Dining
The memo underscores the increasing significance of Express Dining:
If customers prefer to eat in flight but don’t want to wait for each course, they can opt for Express Dining service and receive a single tray with the full meal all at once, at the time they choose.
This “on-demand” demanding requires FAs to be ready to work at anytime instead of during defined meal periods.
A Warning on Staff Reduction
In the same memo, United warns that staff levels on international flights are “not competitive” without offering any concrete plan.
Our international staffing levels are not competitive with Delta or American on certain fleet types. Over time, we will need to work together to identify ways to become more efficient in this area.
This could get ugly…
The cutbacks are disappointing, but no single cutback is draconian. Combined, however, they represent a disappointing trend.